The biggest difference on Saturday was not the 50-point difference West Ham have racked up. Last season they were 21 behind Sunderland, now, in the Premiership, they are 29 points ahead. No, the biggest difference was, as Pardew noted, "patience".
His team needed it to break down the 10 men of Sunderland - following Stephen Wright's early dismissal for two clumsy challenges - and most of all they craved it from the crowd. It came. And Pardew - who has struggled up until this season to win the fans over - was grateful. "We needed it," he said. It marked, above all, West Ham's progress, the growing maturity of a young team and, perhaps, a sign that qualifying for European football this season is not fanciful.
Patience is also what Pardew is calling for from his suddenly impressive stable of strikers. Having, as he said again, gone with a "proposal" to the board to spend the necessary millions - £7m in all - to land Dean Ashton the manager must manage. "We have real competition and are well set," Pardew said. "This is what it's about: me managing that little group; and if I can do that, and keep them all here, then we are going to be difficult to beat."
The "little group" each had a piece of the action. But it was not until the arrival of Marlon Harewood, too strong and quick for Sunderland's ageing defence, that the decisive moments came. He had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, then it was from his shot that Ashton, who had earlier seen a header brilliantly tipped over by Kelvin Davis, reacted quickest to calmly score his first for West Ham. That came inside the final 10 minutes but Paul Konchesky also had time to score his first goal for the club he joined last summer - when his speculative long-range shot squirmed embarrassingly through the goalkeeper.
It was hard on Sunderland. But then that is the story of their season. They had opportunities and Kevin Kyle wasted the best but even though their relegation is inevitable there remains an admirable spirit and commitment which was exemplified by George McCartney, playing his first game of an injury-ruined season.
"We had a great time last season," said the manager, Mick McCarthy, who has steadfastly refused to buckle. It has not been easy. "But we have still got the best jobs," he said. Pardew would concur.
Goals: Ashton (81) 1-0; Konchesky (86) 2-0.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Hislop; Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Mullins (Harewood, 73), Reo-Coker, Etherington; Ashton (Dailly, 83), Zamora (Sheringham, 46). Substitutes not used: Bywater (gk), Katan.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Davis; Wright, Breen, Caldwell, McCartney; Lawrence (Stead, 83), Whitehead, Bassila, Arca (Woods, 74); Kyle, Le Tallec (Nosworthy, 24). Substitutes not used: Murphy (gk), Leadbitter.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: West Ham Scaloni; Sunderland Wright, Whitehead, Caldwell. Sent off: Wright.
Man of the match: McCartney.
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